Satoru Izutsu: Training doctors across cultures

October 27th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in People

Satoru Izutsu headshot

Satoru Izutsu

UH degree: BA in psychology ’50 Mānoa
Professional interests: administration of programs for the elderly, geropsychology, rehabilitation of the physically and mentally challenged
Roots: born on Kauaʻi; attended Mid-Pacific Institute on O’ahu
Military: served in the Army during the Korean conflict; retired as a colonel after 30 years in the Active Reserve
Credentials: licensed psychologist, nursing home administrator and occupational therapist; Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association, World Federation of Occupational Therapists and American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Honor: 1993 University of Hawaiʻi Distinguished Alumni Award
Hobbies: exercise and tea ceremony
Favorite destinations: New York, Tokyo/Kyoto, Thailand, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Belgrade

Satoru Izutsu’s passion is preparing medical students to serve multicultural communities within the Asia-Pacific rim. His own cultural roots lie in a small plantation village. Adults toiled in sugar cane fields from dawn to dusk and children walked the three miles to school barefoot, rain or shine, but what he remembers most is the sense of community and ʻohana. “Children were loved and nurtured by all,” he says.

Foreign students were few to be found when he attended UH, but professors were multinational, he recalls. “They opened the world by emphasizing that there is something out there that you need to explore.”

Izutsu traveled to Columbia University for training in occupational therapy and a master’s degree in special education, followed by doctoral study at Case-Western Reserve University. He volunteered for the American Friends Service Committee and trained physical rehabilitation workers in Yugoslavia.

After Hawaiʻi statehood in 1959, he was among the graduate-school trained ex-pats asked to come home and contribute to the new state. “I was going to live on the mainland the rest of my life, but that changed my mind,” he says.

He joined UH Mānoa as a professor of public health and psychiatry in 1976, administering training programs in family planning in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia and helping establish a health delivery system in northern Thailand. In 1988 he joined UH’s medical school, where he is vice dean and director of admissions and heads the Office of International Medicine/Health. For more than two decades, he has led the Postgraduate Medical Education Program in Asia.

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